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Secrets of 401k Millionaires and my new 22% Strategy
Old 11-12-2013, 06:24 PM   #1
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Secrets of 401k Millionaires and my new 22% Strategy

Interesting article from Fidelity that analysed secrets of accountholders whom achieved a million.

I think I am going to adjust my investing strategy a bit to try and invest 22% of my salary annually...according to my current projections and past performance of some of the other numbers they analyzed I would exceed the million mark.

Some quiick facts from this article:

Specifically, current 401(k) millionaires:
  • Started saving early and therefore had accumulated $426,000, on average, by 2000. (Their current average balance: $1.2 million.)
  • Saved 14% of their annual pay, on average, not including their company match.
  • Took full advantage of company contributions that averaged 4.8%, by saving up to their employer’s match and receiving profit-sharing contributions.
The 401(k) millionaires also sidestepped two pitfalls that plague a significant number of investors. They’ve held a relatively high percentage of their assets in equities – with an average equity allocation of 88% at age 45 and of 54% at age 70. Stocks tend to earn higher returns than bonds and cash over time and so make it easier to build wealth.

Fidelity calculates that someone who earns $40,000 a year and starts saving at age 25 will have $1 million by age 67, assuming he or she receives 1.5% annual raises, saves 16% a year, and earns a 7% annual return. If returns average 5.5%, he or she would need to instead save 22% a year—a sum that includes the employer match.

Learn the secrets of the 401(k) millionaires - Encore - MarketWatch
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Old 11-12-2013, 06:28 PM   #2
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With my new 22% strategy, not much would change.

Max out Roth / Traditional IRA
Continue 401K contributions but increasing % to ensure 22%
Save any additional money into Money Market to feed the gambling addiction.
Continue to try and earn more money by way of good performance reviews and salary increases.
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Old 11-12-2013, 06:39 PM   #3
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Never held 80+% in equities - however I did benefit from high yielding SV funds (6-10%??) during the '80s. The bond bull run also helped. I also averaged over 20% savings per year for over 25 years in the middle of a 35 year span. A solid AA before it was popular has let me reach FI. Maybe not optimal returns but I could easily retire tomorrow. Now 45/35/20 equity/bond/cash AA.
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Old 11-12-2013, 06:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by kgtest View Post
Interesting article from Fidelity that analysed secrets of accountholders whom achieved a million.

I think I am going to adjust my investing strategy a bit to try and invest 22% of my salary annually...according to my current projections and past performance of some of the other numbers they analyzed I would exceed the million mark.
22% that should definitely do it. I maxed out my 401K (12.5% most years, was at time forced to contribute less) age 25 to 40, added an few IRA contribution in my early 20. I Converted a small amount (59K) to a Roth this century. But between 2000 and today I didn't add another dime. My total is $910K, well on the way to $1 million before 59.5. (No Intel stock in the account either)
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Old 11-12-2013, 08:27 PM   #5
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What's interesting to me is that the vast majority of the millionaires did it on a salary of 150k or more. That's three times the median US household income.

I'd bet only a tiny percentage actually reached 1M on the 40k salary they use as an example.
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Old 11-12-2013, 09:32 PM   #6
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I started at 15% of my income into my annual retirement investing in my twenties and was at about 30% in my thirties and over 40% in my forties. Until I hit 50 I was probably at least 85% throughout much of that time in equities. I hit the million mark before I turned 50 even after the " Great Recession " once the market bounced back. I knew then that I needed to change my AA to add more bonds, but had to wait for the recovery before reallocating. I am now about 70/30 and not yet retired. I'll probably reallocate to 60/40 when I retire in a few years. Maybe even 50/50 someday, but I view inflation as the greater risk.
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:38 PM   #7
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What's interesting to me is that the vast majority of the millionaires did it on a salary of 150k or more. That's three times the median US household income.

I'd bet only a tiny percentage actually reached 1M on the 40k salary they use as an example.
That was $40K starting salary way back when and then assuming regular increases in salary. Plus only a tiny percentage was mentioned in the Fidelty study: 0.4% anyways.

I have contributed the max possible to a 401(k) or 403(b) every year for the past 27 years. I do not have a million dollars in those accounts. I guess I didn't get the big company match touted in the article.

My spouse also contributed the same amount as I did: The legal max. She has had high-fee 401(k)s all along, but with her lower earnings, she contributed a higher percentage of them. Nevertheless, she ain't got close to a million either.

So contributing 22% mentioned by the OP could get one to a million, but by then a million will only be worth $500,000. With today's maximum contrib 4 times higher than 25 years ago, I think lots of folks starting now or in the last 10 years will be able to get to a million.
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Old 11-12-2013, 11:39 PM   #8
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We maxed out our 401ks & other pre-tax accounts for 12 years or so and racked up around $500k. If we ever go back to w*rk, we'll return to maxing more. We're happy w*rking to live on 10-15 hrs / week for now.

Don't feel the need to keep building post tax accounts for now.
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Old 11-13-2013, 06:32 AM   #9
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That was $40K starting salary way back when and then assuming regular increases in salary.
Might as well assume a generous DB pension, job security and employer-funded retiree health insurance, too, if we are assuming things about yesterday's workplaces instead of today's....
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Old 11-13-2013, 07:02 AM   #10
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Starting salary less than $20k ending salary considerably less than $100k. Very small pension frozen in '94. Heck if I started at $40k and ended at $150k and saved like I did I would either retire much earlier or be approaching an 8 figure portfolio.
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Old 11-13-2013, 07:26 AM   #11
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year balance contributions
2000 22629.... 21022
2001 28202.... 28279
2002 29844.... 36613
2003 48077.... 45377
2004 58715.... 58041
2005 65617.... 71491
2006 90124.... 84533
2007 114455... 98783
2008 130414... 112766
2009 101191... 127207
2010 149979... 142190
2011 197842... 158053
2012 262381... 175052
2013 355000... 192552 estimated

So these are year ending totals to date.

I guess I could see hitting/surpassing a million by 67.
In 2000 I was 33yo and made $45K.
I believe I was contributing 17% for most of the years. I've maxed it for the last couple years.
Our original 401K had only mutual funds (Fidelity Magellan is one I remember). New 401K switched in 2000 or 2001, all index and target date balanced funds.
Regular raises, no company match, 90% or more in stock indexes.
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:20 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by photoguy View Post
What's interesting to me is that the vast majority of the millionaires did it on a salary of 150k or more. That's three times the median US household income.

I'd bet only a tiny percentage actually reached 1M on the 40k salary they use as an example.
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Old 11-13-2013, 09:28 AM   #13
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Fidelity calculates that someone who earns $40,000 a year and starts saving at age 25 will have $1 million by age 67, assuming he or she receives 1.5% annual raises, saves 16% a year, and earns a 7% annual return. If returns average 5.5%, he or she would need to instead save 22% a year—a sum that includes the employer match.
By the time that person hits 67, he/she will be earning $75,000. So 4% of $1 million provides a 55% replacement ratio.

The quoted savings rate assumes that this 25 year old doesn't have student loans, auto loans, or a mortgage. Or, it assumes that he/she will buy stocks and bonds thru Fidelity instead of paying down those loans. I don't think I'd advise a young person to do that.
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Old 11-13-2013, 10:16 AM   #14
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"Started saving early and therefore had accumulated $426,000, on average, by 2000. (Their current average balance: $1.2 million.)"

Interesting... by 2000 I had about $225K in my 401K, and now have (at the moment of course) about $910K. Not quite a 401K millionaire but I'm not complaining. During this time I wasn't overly aggressive as my stock percentage was around 70% in 2000 and I gradually reduced it to just over 50% now. Simple Large Company /Small Company/International fund allocations. But I did get more serious about maxing out contributions and that was probably the biggest factor that helped me.
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:59 PM   #15
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Interesting responses. I think the key for the average joe here is to be aggressive with saving if you want to get anywhere near a million.

I am a strong believer in increasing your earning potential, by gaining experience and/or education. This has worked so far in my saving strategy, and I will continue to increase my earnings while increasing my savings as that is exponentially a quicker path to FI.

I am 33 and I have increased my income 19.37% /yr over the past 6 6yrs which I feel will help me achieve FI sooner.


Thanks for sharing guys and I agree, I wouldn't put too much weight into this actual article, I merely used it as a discussion point.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:21 PM   #16
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Since I started working I max'd out my 401k benefit. 5 years ago I started to take and max out a spousal IRA and a Roth IRA. I also max out my annuity contribution and a 403B(like 401k for higher ed).

I started when I was 22 and 18 years later I was able to RE with ~ 2Mil. I am now 51 and balanced to 40/60 split. Next year I will probability RE for good. I hear the AT and National/State Parks calling me and the lady!!

The lesson is to leverage the tax differed status vehicles, live below your means, use low cost funds and allow time to work its magic. Simple stuff really.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:40 PM   #17
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Since I started working I max'd out my 401k benefit. 5 years ago I started to take and max out a spousal IRA and a Roth IRA. I also max out my annuity contribution and a 403B(like 401k for higher ed).

I started when I was 22 and 18 years later I was able to RE with ~ 2Mil. I am now 51 and balanced to 40/60 split. Next year I will probability RE for good. I hear the AT and National/State Parks calling me and the lady!!

The lesson is to leverage the tax differed status vehicles, live below your means, use low cost funds and allow time to work its magic. Simple stuff really.

Yes it is time for you to RE a second time...you earned it!
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Old 11-13-2013, 02:06 PM   #18
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It is also important to point out the huge difference in returns in the various decades.
My accumulation started in the early 1980s and ended in 2000. During that time the S&P had ~16% annual gains and NASDAQ was ~21%. My 401K/IRA AA during that time was ~50-60% S&P, 30-40% small cap 0-10% international and 10% bonds. In the beginning 2000 my AA switched to 65%/35% and I luckily bailed on all the NASADQ stocks (except a chunk of Intel)

In contrast the 20 years returns through 2012 are S&P 8.22% Nasdaq 10.87% Now the returns will jump up after this year but still a big difference. $10000 in invested in the S&P in 1985 and cashed out in 2000 was worth $92,900. Starting just 2 years later in 87 and cashing out in 2012 after 25 years was only worth $101,100 not much more for 10 years more of saving.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:42 PM   #19
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I had $500K by age 50 accumulated over 17 years. Always maxed out to the IRS limit, always 100% in equities. But have since then rolled over to an IRA and have doubled over the next 7 years.

I've learned a few things which I intend to pass along to my kids
1) Start early, save the max allowed. All equities.
2) As soon as you quit a job, roll over to an IRA and leverage the universe of investment choices versus the few that your 401K presented to you. Please don't let fees come between you and your wealth.
3) Convert / contribute to as much Roth as you can afford to pay taxes on each year. Earlier in life the better.
4) Follow the Buffett rules, buy a few stocks that you really understand and hold-forever.
5) If you don't think 4) above is for you, put 100% in a low cost Vanguard index fund for 30 years or more. You will make the market return rate. Please don't let fees come between you and your wealth.
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Old 11-15-2013, 01:57 AM   #20
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When you guys say always "maxed" out to the IRS limit, I have no idea how you did this.

My company allows me to contribute 80% and there is no way I could survive off of the other taxed 20%
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